Don Harmon

The #NeverAgain movement and the recent killing of a Chicago police commander have reinvigorated efforts by lawmakers to enact new laws to reduce gun violence.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and wounded more than a dozen others, and the shooting death of Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer on Feb. 13, have driven the efforts both nationally and here at home.

Oak Park state Sen. Don Harmon told Wednesday Journal that renewed debated about enforcing stricter gun control measures gives him hope that his proposed Gun Dealers Licensing Act, known in the General Assembly as SB 1657, will become law.

The proposal, which passed the Senate last spring and is scheduled for a vote in the state House of Representatives later this week, was first introduced by Harmon in 2003.

The proposed law requires background checks for gun dealers and their employees; allows the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to inspect businesses that sell firearms; and requires gun dealers to undergo training on conducting background checks, identifying straw purchasers, and properly storing firearms to prevent theft.

Harmon’s bill would also makes gun dealers install video surveillance of their businesses and keep a record of purchasers’ Firearm Owners Identification or other identification cards.

Harmon has argued that gun crimes are disproportionately linked back to bad dealers, and his legislation would help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. He said he believes “we’re in a strong position” on the House vote “but we’re still going to be tight.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic we will be able to pass the bill,” he said.

Harmon said he has received no indication from Gov. Bruce Rauner on whether he will sign the bill if approved by state lawmakers.

“I think the governor would be foolish to not embrace this bill, but he has a habit of surprising me,” Harmon said. “There have been no commitments, but there have been no threats to veto either.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said in a press release that he also plans to call for a vote on the so-called Lethal Violence Order of Protection Act, which allows courts to temporarily prevent firearms possession by individuals who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. That bill is in the House as HB 2354 and the Senate as SB 559.

Madigan said in a press release that House Democrats also will introduce legislation to prevent people under the age of 21 from purchasing assault rifles like the kind used in the Parkland shooting. That proposal also will prevent those with a history of mental illness from owning firearms.

Meanwhile, Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) appeared alongside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy during a Feb. 25 press conference held outside of Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago to announce he would introduce legislation this week to increase federal taxes on the purchase of guns and ammunition — something that hasn’t been done in decades.

The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act would raise excise taxes — taxes on particular goods — on pistols and revolvers from 10 to 20 percent, and the excise tax on other firearms from 11 to 20 percent. The excise tax on ammunition would increase from 11 percent to 50 percent.

“The excise taxes on guns and ammunitions have not changed since 1919 and 1941, respectively,” according to a fact sheet Davis’ office distributed after the press conference.

“Given the high costs incurred by governments due to gun violence, an increase in federal taxes represents a reasonable step forward to address the national crisis of gun violence.”

Davis cited statistics from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which estimates that “gun violence costs Chicago and its residents $2.5 billion a year.”

The tax would also close loopholes that help the owners of assault weapons avoid paying taxes and abiding by certain regulations.

The proposed legislation would apply the new revenue created, estimated at $977 million, to fund anti-violence research and initiatives.

Kennedy said that Illinois needs to “ban assault rifles,” but until that happens, gun owners should be taxed so that they pay their fair share of the social costs that result from the guns and ammunition.

Davis introduced similar legislation in 2013 and 2015. Those measures are currently in committee.


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